Colombian politicians, family, bid farewell to Botero before public homage

Colombia’s lawmakers bade a final farewell Friday to renowned artist Fernando Botero who died aged 91 last week, and whose body was flown from Europe to Bogota for a week-long homage.

Botero’s coffin, the yellow, blue, and red Colombian flag draped over it, lay in state in the wreath-filled legislative chamber as a choir and orchestra performed and the presidential guard stood on attention.

Known for his voluptuous depictions of people and animals using different media, Colombia’s most famous artist died in Monaco, where he lived, on September 15 after developing pneumonia.

“We are overwhelmed, moved, and deeply grateful for the expressions of affection, recognition, and gratitude shown to my father,” said Lina Botero, the artist’s daughter who attended the solemn ceremony along with other family members.

“Bringing my father back to his homeland one last time, so that Colombians can say goodbye to him, was one of our greatest wishes,” she added.

Ivan Name, president of the Congress, praised Botero as a “universal Colombian.”

The artist “stopped the world for an instant… he did it with a brush and with his hands when he managed to paint a different world, a world that reflected the reality of his country but also contained the secret keys to the human spirit,” said Name.

Members of the public came to pay their respects, with retired scientist Mercedes Rojas saying she would remember Botero’s “representation of daily life in Colombia,” and 56-year-old artist and painter Santiago Soto telling AFP that Botero’s work is “immortal.”

The artist’s body will rest until Sunday in a congressional chamber accessible to the public, in the heart of the historic center of Bogota.

On Monday, the remains will be transferred to his hometown of Medellin in the northwest, where several events have been planned to honor him.

Botero will then be cremated and his ashes taken to the small Italian village of Pietrasanta, to be interred next to his wife, the Greek artist Sophia Vari, who died in May.

Botero — dubbed the “Picasso of Latin America” — was a passionate and tireless artist, with an oeuvre of more than 3,000 paintings and 300 sculptures.

His creations of oversized and slightly surreal forms have been auctioned for up to $4.3 million at prestigious galleries in cities such as New York or London.

Medellin declared a week of mourning for Botero.

His daughter had told reporters her father had continued painting until the end despite a battle with Parkinson’s disease which made it hard for him to walk or communicate.